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Do I Need a Server?

Do I Need a Server?

A blog by Graeme McInteer,

My server is dying – do I need to replace it?

There’s a simple answer: yes and no.

ICT Managed Services and Support at Zephyr Consulting Limited.

Let’s paint the picture: your server is 3-5 years old and wheezing. It may be running out of space to store any more of your files and you’re not sure how much longer it will last. You’ve had a quote for $20K to replace it (perhaps lots more) and you are not keen on lashing out cash if you don’t have to! Leasing is an option, but you know that in the long-term it’ll cost more. Ditto financing the deal. So what do you do?

We all know that servers are not cheap. Understandably, as server manufacturers use quality components for reliability. But the last thing you want is your server playing up while 100 people are trying to work. As a comparison, a replacement hard disk drive for your home computer is about $100. For a server, think more $1000….EACH, because normally you will need to buy at least two at a time.

Servers should be replaced every 4 years at the most, and generally every 3 years is a normal life cycle. They are the most critical part of your computer network, and not something you would want to stretch out to last as long as possible, as you might with a desktop PC.

Firstly Do I still need a Server?

A server is the heart of your network. It handles the security around who can log into your network, it handles any print jobs that comes through, it holds all the files you (and the rest of your staff) work on, it probably does all your email too, as well as dishing out Windows updates and managing the antivirus updates for all your computers. There are other jobs it does that you have no idea of, and I’m not going to discuss them here and totally confuse you. Just be aware the server in your office isn’t just doing a single, obvious job; it has many hats and works hard. There are many variations to the above scenario. Some companies may have moved their email to Office 365, and out of their own network (great for disaster recovery!). And others may have moved their email and shared files to Office 365, you don’t need a server to do this work.

Is security Important to You?

Security is a big one in an office network. You don’t want just anyone logging in as you, and looking at your email or files. That’s one of the main roles of your server – security over who can do what. If you take that security away, you need to be careful on how people log into their (or your) computer, so confidential information doesn’t get exposed to the wrong people.

Your server also makes it so much easier to make changes on your network. Let’s say you get a new printer/photocopier. With a server, the new printer is ‘loaded’ onto it, and everyone picks up any changes to the printer from the server. Want to force everyone to print double sided? Just one change on the server, and then everyone else gets that change. Without a server, you would need to visit every computer to make a single change. Time consuming at best.

You may have worked out then that there’s some jobs your server does that you can’t put in ‘the cloud’. On the other hand, you’ve likely heard from some people who have moved everything to the cloud, wanting no servers on their premises.

Is it Possible (and economical) to get rid of your severs?

Let’s get one thing clear. Those people who say they got rid of their servers, probably haven’t. Their server may now be ‘collocated’ so while it’s not at their site, they would have paid someone else to ‘host’ their physical server/s for them at (for example) a datacentre, where there’s better earthquake strengthening, better power redundancy and better physical security. So while they may say they have no server, they still do – it just isn’t on their premises.

Benefits of a Cloud Based Server

There are many benefits of having your data stored in the Cloud, like flexibility and costs. But a huge benefit of having a cloud server is Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity Planning (BCP). Which means when there is a natural disaster for example an earthquake, your company data is safe and your server is not covered in piles of rubble. It’s a huge risk to think about, and we’ve seen some companies unable to come back from such a disaster.

But like everything there are some disadvantages too which you’ll have to keep in mind. To read more about Cloud-base Server, check out our thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Using a Cloud Based Server.

Is Your Internet up to Speed?

At this point you may be thinking, “Right that’s it! I am going to get me some of those cloud servers and dump all my onsite servers.” Ah if only it was that simple – you will need to plan this out and check that your supporting network is capable for such a move. For example, it is pointless having a cloud server if you are on an ADSL or VDSL internet connection. Don’t know what this means? It’s the type (and that means speed) of your internet connection. You will also need to have at minimum, a fibre connection to the internet (for example, UFB) to effectively use a cloud-based server. Otherwise you are asking for slow speeds of service and frustrated staff.

An Option for Small Organisations

If you have say 10 staff or less, you can get away with no server onsite and effectively no servers in the cloud. There are some caveats around this. Your computers all need to be running Windows 10, and you’ll need to be using Office 365. And as long as your company’s documents and files are stored in SharePoint Online, for example you should still have security over people logging into your computer, and privacy of them not being able to view your documents at the same time.

As long as all these caveats are met, you should be able to remove the need for any server onsite. Zephyr can help you with more information on any of these options.

So what is the Answer?

It’s frustrating and it’s one of those questions we often get asked here at Zephyr. So what is the answer? So, can you get rid of your server? The answer is still yes and no. Each company has different requirements, and you may find that you have no choice but to have at least one server onsite. However, you may find that you can move many of your IT requirements offsite, and that means if you do need a server onsite it can be a much lower-specified (i.e. cheaper) one.

What has been your experience with Servers? If you have been using a Cloud-Based Server, what are your thoughts?

Posted on: October 15, 2015
A blog by Graeme McInteer,